Roopam Garg of THE SURREALIST Talks Music, Technique & More

Roopam Garg

Roopam Garg is a young composer and guitarist attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and running a power trio The Surrealist, with whom he recently released an EP titled Naked Awareness. Unlike many of other guitarists of his age, Roopam decided to pursue a different path when it comes to composition and versatility of the instrument. He spoke for Guitar Sphere about his musical upbringing, discovering guitar, technique, his work with The Surrealist, and more.

How would you describe your initial exposure to music?

Roopam Garg: When I was really young my older brother would blast music in his bedroom, and I would be forced to hear all the music through the walls. He’d play a lot of electronica, films soundtracks and alternative music that I’d become attuned to. I’m actually starting to revisit much of the music from my childhood. There’s a certain joyous energy you experience from doing so.

How did you get into playing guitar?

Roopam Garg: I think a girl I had a crush on back in middle school was playing guitar at the time, so I decided to pick it up as well to try and impress her. She ended up leaving that year but the guitar definitely stuck around. I guess that’s when true love was really born.

Roopam Garg with his Kiesel Guitars Aries AM7 multiscale

Did you start to listen to music differently once you discovered guitar?

Roopam Garg: Definitely. When you learn an instrument you tend to become more aware of what’s going in the music you listen to from a technical and theoretical standpoint. For me, I’d especially pick up the finest details and nuances in guitar-driven music such as the string noise and pick attack.

When you learn an instrument you tend to become more aware of what’s going in the music you listen. – Roopam Garg

Who were some of your early guitar influences?

Roopam Garg: I’d listen to a lot of 30 Seconds To Mars, My Chemical Romance, and Linkin Park. These are bands I still listen to as they’re absolutely genius songwriters. Particularly, I’d scout around and find the instrumental and stem tracks for all their songs because I’d love zooming in on what the drummer or guitarist was doing. I remember listening to the drum stems of 30 Seconds To Mars songs nonstop.

Tell me about your guitar technique.

Roopam Garg: I love exploring the textural possibilities of the guitar. I’m really fascinated by how versatile the guitar is, how you can attack a string from multiple angles and never have two notes sound the same. A lot of techniques I employ are centered on this. I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap between rhythmic and lead guitar, and create ideas that infuse both elements and more to create something artistic and surreal.

What made you gravitate to the Kiesel brand?

Roopam Garg: Kiesel is an interesting guitar company because all their guitars and basses are custom made and built to order. They’ve perfected their manufacturing process that’s allowed them to do this in an economical way for consumers. This means every guitar that comes out of Kiesel’s factories is one of a kind. I loved this concept and finally got one. Needless to say, it’s the best guitar I’ve ever set my hands on.

Besides Kiesel, what other guitars are in your collection?

Roopam Garg: Along with the Kiesel, I have classical guitar by Yamaha and an Ibanez bass guitar.

Tell me about your home studio. What do you use for tracking at home?

Roopam Garg: All my sounds, guitar tones and effects come primarily from Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx II XL. I mainly use the Kiesel guitar to write and record and use Logic Pro for tracking and to achieve supplementary effects.

With the advancement of the technology and amp/effect simulation, do you still use pedals?

Roopam Garg: You mean the things car drivers press on? Seriously though, I’m considering getting a TC Electronics Looper pedal but that’s about it.

One skill that’s incredibly important is an innovate mindset. - Roopam Garg

In your opinion, what are the three skills that every guitarist must bring to perfection?

Roopam Garg: I’d say the one skill that’s incredibly important is an innovate mindset. Having the intention to create something unique is the only ingredient you’ll ever need to stay true to yourself as an artist.

How did you work on perfecting your rhythm and solo parts?

Roopam Garg: On Naked Awareness there was definitely an explicit separation between rhythm and melody. But I’m gradually moving away from the classic lead/rhythm guitar dichotomy and exploring ideas that integrate both the melody and rhythm into one idea.  The concept of the having the rhythm and leads play with each other really fascinates me.

The Surrealist (L-R: Beauman Edwards, John-Marc Degaard, Roopam Garg)

The Surrealist (L-R: Beauman Edwards, John-Marc Degaard, Roopam Garg)

Back to music… You have recently launched your debut EP with The Surrealist titled Naked Awareness. Lead me through its creative process.

Roopam Garg: On the Naked Awareness EP, the creation and recording process happened simultaneously, meaning that I would sit down with no predisposed ideas and just recorded something until there was something interesting. But recently, I’ve been creating demo files before recording the final takes. I’ve realized that this allows me to adopt a singular mindset of either just composing or just recording, as opposed to having to compose and track the final takes at once, which leads to a lot more time being spent finishing the track.

Are you satisfied with the reception of the EP by audiences? How do you think the listeners will interpret the record as a whole?

Roopam Garg: The reception has been awesome. It’s exceeded our expectations. We couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out. We’ve got a lot of new music in the making right now, and it’s some next-level stuff. We can’t wait to show everyone!

The Surrealist’s debut EP Naked Awareness is out now; order it from Bandcamp. The band is currently working on new music, follow them on Facebook for future updates.